Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Being a Wife too

I'm going to start off with being perfectly honost with you. I'm not so great at this one!

I love my husband, he's amazing and I know with 100% certainty that he is the man that God put on this earth for me to spend the rest of my life with. I can honostly say that in over 5 years of marriage and almost 8 years of being together, I have never wished he didn't come into my life. I'm not going to brag about him right now (though I'm sure I could write a whole post about all the ways that he is wonderful) because I want this post to be about how to be a wife.

I watched my wedding video (it was missing until just recently) for the first time since shortly after we returned from our honey moon. It was amazing to watch Adam and I standing up at the front of the church saying our vows. It was even more incredible to hear those vows and know that I would say them again in a heartbeat.

All that being said, I sometimes forget that I am a wife as well as a mother. Anyone who has, or who has had, a toddler knows that they can be quite time consuming. With some of the parenting decisions Adam and I have made for Caleb it can become even moreso. I breastfeed, share sleep, wore him in a moby wrap (he's kind of big now), respond to his cries, and believe babies need their mamas (I rarely go out without him). Adam is in complete agreement with this style of parenting but it means that I have little time for anything else.

Obviously with a very young baby the father will need make sacrifices to make sure that the baby's needs are being met through his wife's time and energy. Newborns are pretty high maintenance and have needs that can (mostly) be filled by the mother alone. There's no getting around that. Toddlers, on the other hand, have the same needs but it is much easier for them to be met by someone other than the mother. This can be a tough transition, not because we (as mothers) want to maintain that dependence (though this sometimes can be the case) but purely out of habit.

For example:
Caleb falls down and hurts himself - I instinctively run over to scoop him up. It can be very difficult to allow Adam to comfort him while I stand in the other room. This has nothing to do with my trust in how Adam handles the situation because he does exactly what I would do (most of the time). I am just so used to being the primary one to fill that need. Logically I know that Caleb is just fine, biologically I am wired to respond to my child.

Being a mother is a 24/7 responsibility. I am pretty sure that I'm not the only mother who forgets about everything around her and just gets absorbed in that mothering role. Let's face it, our kids are adorable, they can make us laugh, they make us feel needed, and there is nothing better to a mother than to see her child(ren) happy and having fun.

So how do we "reclaim" the wife role? How do we remember how to fulfill that role as well? One thing that Adam and I are planning to do is go out a local coffee shop once a week for a couple of hours. We read devotions together every night (Caleb has learned that this is his quiet time). We play games together when Caleb is napping. I don't believe that you absolutly MUST have an official "date night" every week during which you leave your child(ren) with a babysitter. I do think it is wise to spend time focused on your husband. Whether this be getting up half an hour before the children are awake to share a morning chat, or taking young children (the ones that you're not ready to leave yet) with you when you go out to dinner or for a walk or whatever you and your husband enjoy doing together. (Going for a walk is great because you can strap young children into a stroller and the older ones can go play in a park or something.)

It's about staying connected. Phone calls, texting, eating meals together etc. are all ways to stay connected to your spouse. Once you start doing things together (even with the children), it becomes a lot easier to remember that you enjoy spending one on one time with your spouse. Find a hobby you both enjoy, or a project you can work on together. Key things to do with your husband are to pray together everyday and read the Bible (even if it's just a few verses). Once you grow closer to God together, He makes the rest fall into place.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Significance of Feeding

I have so many friends and acquaintances who are at the point that their loved ones want to feed their babies. These are babies that are anywhere from 100% breastfed (no bottles) to ones who are supplemented with either breastmilk or formula, to babies who are 100% formula fed. It's the same dilemma with each one. Loving friends and family always want to help feed the baby.

By looking at nature's way of feeding a baby, we can easily observe that feeding is meant to be an intimate time between a mother and her child. Baby snuggles close and can inhale the scent of mama, feel the warmth her skin against him, look into her eyes and see her looking back at him with that special "look" that is reserved for just this particular mother-child relationship. When you closely watch a mother nurse her baby you can see both of them relax and go into another world. A world in which mother knows that she is the one who is in charge of nourishing this child. She is the one who will have to, and is willing to, make the sacrifices it takes to protect this baby and teach him everything he needs to know to grow and thrive in this world we live in. A world in which baby knows he is safe, protected, and, most importantly, unconditionally loved.

It's no wonder that everyone around this baby wants to take part in that special time.

Soon after baby is born loved ones all around will begin asking if they can give the baby his bottle. Shortly thereafter comes the pressure to introduce solids. Then our world's infatuation with junk food comes into play (and never leaves).

For example, at one month old I decided to try Caleb on a bottle of expressed breastmilk. I stood in the other room while Adam fed Caleb the bottle. Afterwards I asked Adam how he felt about being able to feed Caleb. His answer completely shocked me. He told me that it was okay but he didn't feel that it was his place to fill that need at that particular time. He said something along the lines of "I love to see you feed him. That's your special time with him. It just doesn't feel right when I do it."

I wish more people had that attitude. This is not to say that Caleb has never "nursed" down with a bottle in anyone else's arms (my mom can attest to that). This is not to say that letting other people feed your baby is bad mothering. I just mean that I wish more people understood that a mother is entitled to share that special bond with her child. With no interference or outside pressure to "spread the love" (for lack of a better phrase). Some fathers I know felt that the only way they could connect with their baby was to give them a bottle. I'm very tempted to say that this is a bad attitude on their part. I won't say that though because that's not really true. I think that these fathers saw the closeness that their wife and baby have and are just looking for a way to bond. I will say, however, that there are many other ways for a father to bond that don't interrupt this particular way of bonding between mom and baby. (Perhaps I will be able to convince my husband to help me write about his experience at some point in the future.)

I wish that I had some really great advice about how to deal with these well-meaning loved ones. I like to find solutions to problems. But everyone is different and every one's situation in different. I just told people that Caleb didn't take a bottle (he sucked on it fine, I just chose not to give him one very often). As he got older and finally started eating solids (he wasn't really interesting till around his first birthday but that's a whole other story) I told people that he was very particular. So they just asked me what he could and couldn't eat (perhaps they thought it was allergies). Some people thought it was just that "new mom's syndrome" (you know, the one where a new mom is wanting to do everything perfectly to the letter for her child). In reality it was a very conscious choice that my husband and I made.

From mom to mom, I just want to encourage you to cherish that special time of feeding your baby. You are entitled to take your baby out of someone's arms to feed him. It's your right. There is a biological response if you know that your child is hungry to want to fill that need. It is your right, it is your duty, it is your privilege. No matter what you're feeding him (or her of course) you are entitled to that special privilege as a mother. You are entitled to feel that special closeness. And no, you don't need to share.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Say No to No

I was on a forum a few days ago and there was a question that was asked by a mom. In summary, she was asking if 6 months was too young to tell your child "NO." I was a little disappointed by some of the responses given. The majority of them went something like this "I've heard it's not good to tell them NO but I do it anyway" or like this "I've been told NO and I turned out fine."

It's not a great comparison but it sounds like what people say in response to drinking and driving. "I know that I've had a couple drinks and I shouldn't drive but I'm going to do it anyway. Hey look, I made it home safely!" or "I know lots of people that drive after a couple beers and they're just fine." Just because not every time ends in tragedy doesn't make it the right thing to do.

Saying NO is something I've got a strong opinion about (I have strong opinions about a lot of things lol). The reason why we're told that saying NO is a bad thing is because it's a negative word and we're supposed to be in a world full of positive parenting, aren't we?

Here is what I put as my response to this question:
I say "ah ah" with my son and have since he was little. I don't personally like saying no all the time (though there are occasions that call for it). I just feel that if a child hears "no" and "don't do that" all the time it instills a lot of negativity in them. I think that a lot of "no's" isn't really setting boundaries. It's just telling them everything they can't do.
If my son puts his feet on the table for example, instead of saying "don't do that" I tell him, "feet go under the table." I give him something positive that he can do. If he throws a toy, I don't instantly tell him he's doing something wrong. I tell him "you need to be gentle with your toys" or " please put the toy back on the shelf." Put yourself in your child's shoes. How do you feel when some one's telling you "no" constantly and telling you you can't do anything. It would probably exasperate you as well. It's about giving kids opportunities to listen and do the right thing, instead of being scolded for doing the wrong thing all the time. Even if you do decide that "no" is a word you want to use, always back it up with something positive. "No, you can't do that, But you can do this instead."

With the work that I used to do and the atmosphere in the office I've learned the value of positivity. I used to work in a office that was mostly positive but there was still a decent amount of grumbling about customers, bills, the boss etc. I felt very drained after a day at work and wasn't always in the greatest mood when I got home. The negative things people say truly to affect you, whether you want them to or not.
The next place that I worked has an extremely positive atmosphere. There was very minimal grumbling and complaining. Instead, if there was a problem, we figured out how to deal with it. Compliments and encouraging words abounded. I was excited to go into the office and felt energized when I left! I felt like I could conquer the world and that I was capable of doing whatever I put my mind too. While I worked at this "positive office" (for lack of a better term) I also did a lot of reading on personal development and heard a number of speakers on the subject. I will never forget one phrase I learned "don't walk away from the negative people in your life. RUN from them!" We all have complainers in our circle of friends. These are the "woe is me" people. They are draining to be around and you feel worse after you see them than you did before your visit.

I am talking about this because that's exactly what constant NOs reflect to your children. What kind of difference would it make if that negative friend were to change her (or his) thinking from "I don't want to go to work because my boss doesn't appreciate me and always takes advantage of me" to something along the lines of "I'm really looking forward dealing with the customers and my co-workers at my work"? Do you think it might change her whole outlook on the day? (I say her because most of my friends are female so I think female when I think friend. I'm not talking about anyone in particular.)

Now put that same attitude towards out children. Do we want them to grow up with negativity all around them? Do we want to be that negative person that our children should "run away" from? Do we want them walk into the living room and see all the NOs they can't touch and start to feel down and limited in what they can do? Or do we want them to walk into the living room and say, "I know I can't play with that but I get to play with ALL THESE TOYS!!!!"

This was what took place at my breakfast table:
Caleb: signed Cheese
Mama: You can have peanut butter sandwich or your apple.
Caleb: signed cheese (quite frantically)
Mama: You can have peanut butter sandwich your apple.
Caleb: signed cheese
Mama: Sandwich or apple.
Caleb: chose neither. And didn't get cheese either.

I "won" that discussion and didn't have to say NO even once.

I have a corner with a table that has picture frames on it. Caleb is not allowed to touch them. He know this and I've never had to tell him NO. I tell him "this corner is not for Caleb." Or "these are mama's, you can play with your toys instead." Some things have to be repeated more often but Caleb is proof that you can have a NO-free household. (It's very cute because he actually points at the corner and shakes his head and then moves on to his toy box. Most of the time anyway, sometimes he needs a gentle reminder. The reminder consists of me saying sternly "Caleb" and he usually listens right away.)

Besides all of the positive encouragement that Caleb gets from this there is another wonderful benefit. He's nearly 2 and has never told me no either.

If you want more ideas here is a great article on 18 Ways to say NO Positively.